A woman wearing skates and butterfly wings gave the heads up.
“Five minutes! We’re gonna roll out in 5 minutes!”
Sophi Gilliland, aka Gypsy Rainbow Sk8er, was addressing a ragtag bunch on the morning of April 20. Minus the tattoos, piercings and hint of weed, she was like most: in colorful uniform and stoked to the max.
It was motorless morning in Garden of the Gods. And it was time for boys and girls and men and women typically lurking underground to make themselves known.
They came from California, including Indyjammajones, among those with skater brands that would surely get big boosts from videos with such a backdrop. They came from South Dakota, including Danger Girl. They came from New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. From Utah, the Sad Boys Club came in a short school bus. The small group was founded on broken hearts, but as the leader said, “How can you be sad when you’re skating?”
The Sad Boys a while back were in Los Angeles, the stomping grounds of an idol, Moxi-sponsored Lorenzo Chatman, aka Enzo Tight. He told the Sad Boys about this dope event coming up in Colorado Springs.
Motorless morning in Garden of the Gods. Don’t miss it, Enzo told the Sad Boys.
“Anytime there’s motorless anything, I’m there,” he said on this Saturday. That’s especially the case when a motorless something boasts epic views and hills steep and paved, perfect for bombing.
“It just feels like everything disappears,” Enzo said. “It’s just freedom.”
He gathered with the others around Gilliland as she reminded them of what they were in for: lung-busting uphills followed by wheel-wobbling plunges and tight-bending corners. She was brief, less than a minute, keeping things appropriately informal while representing the local 719 Skate Squad, which had put the word out on social media but didn’t expect this kind of turnout.
With a rebel yell, they were off.
During a group photo, a quick count yielded upwards of 50, but many had already ripped ahead. Another unofficial organizer later placed the number closer to 100.
“Wow,” remarked the long-bearded Ryan Vollmer, Wildman719. “This is crazy.”
Skateboarders and roller skaters don’t fit into popular images of outdoor recreation — more relegated to concrete. But they share every Coloradan’s dream to get in nature. And in Garden of the Gods, on these vehicle-free days, they have realized it.
Judging by the last meetup, it’s easy to imagine the place becoming a mecca for them.
That is, if park rangers allow it.
They’ve granted skateboarders special access on motorless mornings, the only hours they’re allowed. But with the tradition in its infancy — three such mornings so far — everything is still on a trial basis, said Vanessa Zink, city spokeswoman. “It’s just such a new event for us that we’re still learning about how people are wanting to use the park.
“I don’t think anyone expected it to get as popular with the skaters.”
Now officials are debating their future in the Garden. Roller skaters are deemed safe. They can brake with their toes, though that can be tricky with a top speed of 30 mph, as some have recorded.
“It’s the flying object risk,” Zink said. “Say someone’s bird watching, and a skateboard comes crashing down the hill and their back is turned and they get nailed by a skateboard. That’s kind of the scary part.”
Skateboarders were officially banished from city park roads in 2013 when staff finally decided the risks with cars were too great. And it wasn’t just the Garden; boarders were rocketing down North Cheyenne Cañon.
Vollmer, among West Siders zipping through the Garden in the ‘80s and ‘90s, understood the ban as traffic boomed. “If they closed it to vehicles, though, indefinitely, then yeah, sure. Hell yeah.”
He and others can keep dreaming about indefinitely. As for their continued existence on motorless mornings, all they can do is hope.
To put it simply, “it’s fast, and the roads are nice,” said Ian Smith, another native. He went to Palmer High School, often ditching to skate, drawn to a free-spirited faction.
The scene here is bigger than the city’s conservative exterior might suggest, Smith said.
“It’s awesome. The 719 Skate Squad, Chicks in Bowls, it’s inclusive, all wheels, and that’s what’s awesome. There’s no bad blood.”
Brandy Ackman started the Skate Squad less than two years ago and has seen the Facebook group grow to 300-plus. She roller-skates but welcomes all.
“I find a lot of people in this skateboard community are kind of like broken people, you know? They don’t really fit into normal society,” she said. “But they still find an outlet.”
Ackman started the squad for the same reason her boyfriend, Vollmer, opened Manitou’s Mountainside Skate Shop last year. It’s a place to gear up and just be.
“They’re special people, dude,” Vollmer said at the Garden. “Look at all of ‘em, bro!”